With the Rugby League World Cup approaching us in the coming weeks ahead, we had a moment to speak with someone who knows a thing or two about the competitive tournament, professional athlete Nela Moa of the Section Paloise Rugby Union Team. Moa is a former player of Tonga’s Ikale Tahi Rugby Union Team, who beat France at the last world cup in 2011 held at New Zealand. Impressed with his skill set and fascinated by his talent, a French team craved the Eagle’s rugby expertise and signed him up on a two year contract. The current French resident continues his rugby career with Section Paloise for a few more years as he renewed his contract last year in 2012. Moa’s unprecedented knowledge and experience of the sport has allowed him to play not only one, but two positions #9 and #10 over the course of his rugby career since the age of 18. The respected player shares his story of opportunity through the world of rugby.
TWID: How did you begin your rugby career?
NM: I was born in Tonga but moved to New Zealand as all Tongans do looking for a better life. I was lucky enough to be blessed with this talent. I started off with a local team called Te Papa, playing for fun with my friends. I played for fun and later on I knew it could be a career so I started taking it seriously.
TWID: How was the transition from New Zealand to France?
NM: The first two months were hard with the language and making new friends. Ninety percent of the boys here are all French, but once you get use to it, everything is all good. I enjoy it here and it’s just like living at home. You do the same thing, just practice and playing. Sometimes you don’t get a weekend off, it’s hard when you have a Sunday game.
TWID: What do you bring to the table?
NM: For me, I have knowledge of the game and experience which I think is really important. It’s the little things that count as well. If you do the simple things right, all the other pieces will fall into place.
TWID: What has gotten you this far?
NM: Prayers and trying to provide for the family. The key for me for getting this far is my family always being there for me. It works because I’m still here.
TWID: What is one of your best accomplishments?
NM: The biggest accomplishment was touring with the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team to South Africa in 2008. I got to see how professional they are because they’re the best out in the world.
TWID: What do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
NM: To be honest I don’t do much in training it just comes out in the game. I watch videos and study what other teams do.
TWID: What is one of your greatest achievements?
NM: It would probably be beating France in the World Cup. It was good for Tongan Rugby, it sent a message that Tonga can compete at a professional level. We beat Scotland last year and that’s one of the best teams. Tonga is lucky enough to be in the same pool as New Zealand and Argentina for the next World Cup.
TWID: What is your biggest challenge?
NM: For me it’s my diet. Once it’s off season I can’t stop eating all the Tongan food when I’m back home. When I’m back in France, I have to adjust. My Fijian boys come around and they’re really good at cooking.
TWID: What was the best advice you were ever given?
NM: I remember a principal at school said it to me once, ‘If it is to be, it is up to me,’. It always gets me thinking that if things don’t go your way, it doesn’t matter because another door will open for you.
TWID: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
NM: My family and watching a lot of NFL and NBA. I love listening to athletes who have done it before.
TWID: Are you a team player?
NM: Always, it’s always been the team before me. You can be the star player, but you need the team. You can’t really do anything and play the game by yourself.
Nela Moa’s natural ability to execute a myriad of outstanding performance on the field leaves us breathless. Like many Islander athletes, Moa exemplifies a true Tongan by carrying his heritage on his shoulders everywhere he goes, representing it from team to team and country to country. As the saying goes, “you can take the boy out of the Island, but you can’t take the Island out of the boy,” his journey speaks volumes to us all, so thank you Nela Moa for making history with rugby and with our people. It’s What. He. Do.
Article Written By: Sina Uipi